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Spotlight The Valley’s win at Ascot Park yesterday was special for her trainer and part owner Robert Wilson of Balfour. “She’s just been going through the motions lately and I always knew there was another win there. It was her ninth win which is pretty awesome really,” Wilson said. The Skyvalley mare got the perfect trip behind pacemaker Davey Mac and came up the inside passing lane to beat that horse by a length and a quarter. She was 10/10 in the betting paying $36 to win despite running third at her last start. Spotlight The Valley started her career with Billy Head but Wilson took over her training shortly after. She’s won nine races, run second 17 times and third 14 times, earning The Sunbeam Syndicate which owns her $89,322. “She’s just so honest. A lovely horse. The syndicate have had three pay outs over a long time so she’s been a great syndicate horse. The group are spread around – Timaru to Roxburgh.” Wilson says a trip to the breeding barn is now on the cards for Spotlight The Valley. “We’ve been talking about it so that’s half pie the plan, so we’ll probably get her in foal. There’ll always be a home at my place for her.” Spotlight The Valley was bred by Kevin Schuck who also owned an unqualified filly out of the mare by Muscle Mass and a two year old Sundon colt which is at Nathan Williamson’s. The mare has also left qualified Angus Hall gelding Danangus Fella which is trained at Kurow by Petra Luzumova. Wilson and his wife Eleanor owned Soky’s Atom gelding Atomwise in the late 1990s. He won five of his eight starts in New Zealand for Southland trainer Alan Devery and won another nine races from fifteen starts in Australia.   Bruce Stewart

Canterbury horseman Paul Court made his last trip south for a while yesterday and was rewarded when Tom Martin trained by his father, won. “I picked him out at the sales. He’s owned by a syndicate who’ve had a bit of fun with him which is good,” Paul said. The Mach Three entire was taken straight to the front by driver Blair Orange and he won easily by two and quarter lengths from Rocknroll King. “He’s a big bugger and time is going to be his friend. He’s a big staying type.” Court leaves Canterbury next week and heads to Canada with his wife Chantelle and their children and he’s looking forward to the change. “Very much so. Can’t wait. It’s a shame to say goodbye to all my mates but I’ll be back at some stage for a holiday.” Court has been training in his own right from 2008 until last season and geared up 141 winners of which Orange drove 104. “The highlight of my career was training (with his father Graham) Terror To Love and getting to work with this man here. (Referring to Blair Orange). He’s a good mate so it’s good getting successes with Styx.” Court’s best winner was Hail Christian but he trained other good horses in Cast No Shadow, Mongolian Hero, Malik, Stun Gun, Stick Man, Mongolian Cavalry and RR Sand Dollar. Paul trained with his father between 2009 and 2015 winning 98 races including the 2011, 2012 and 2013 New Zealand Cup with Terror To Love. Tom Martin was bred by Julie Davie, Peter Cummings and the late Father Dan Cummings of Tuapeka Lodge and is out of the Life Sign mare Raindowne.   Raindowne was bought by John and Judy Stiven of Arden Lodge in 2016 and they’ve bred a Bettor Delight filly out of the mare which has just turned three, a Captaintreacherous filly which is two and they have a yearling colt by the same sire.   Bruce Stewart

This story was initiated by my interest in the connection Menangle trainer Tim Butt has to harness racing in southern New Zealand, the way in which My Field Marshal has very much put him back on the Australian Harness map, and the fact that Southland bred pacer Tact Tama looks like his next star. However, in looking into the background of Tim Butt, the story frame expanded because as a trainer this former Canterbury horseman has forged a remarkable career. His record in both countries speaks volumes of his ability to pick stock, train to win and target the big races on both sides of the Tasman. Then there was that remarkable run on the Dominion Handicap when between 1999 and 2011 he won the race as a trainer an incredible eight times, something fellow trainer Mark Jones has been reminded of. “When I won it the first time (with Master Lavros) he walked past and said ‘Congratulations, seven more to go. And when I won the second time he walked past and said ‘Still six to go’. Cheeky bugger,” said Jones who drove many winners for Butt. The feats of horses like millionaires Lyell Creek, Flashing Red, Take A Moment and Stunin Cullen are well documented. But when you look at the list of other winners (printed below) a host of very good horses have helped to shape this trainer’s outstanding record. And a handful of these horses came from other stables with Butt reinvigorating their careers – Mah Sish, Report To Duty, Mister DG and Mr Feelgood are examples. “He’d get horses from other trainers and improve them, which is the sign of a very good trainer,” Jones said. Camtastic gelding Mister DG won nine races for Manawatu trainer Stephen Doody before Butt secured him. “We tried to buy him early on. As a seven year old they got an offer to sell him to America because he was on his mark in New Zealand. As a courtesy they rang us. We paid quite a lot of money. He might have won 100 k when we got him and I think he ended up winning 600 grand in four months. One of my big disappointments though was not winning the Interdominions in Perth. He just ran out of track. He got fourth – a short half head and short half head and a short half head behind three great horse, Jofess, The Falcon Strike and Sokyola. Another ten to fifteen metres he would have won it,” said Butt. Tim also rates Vulcan as another great horse which to some extent lived in the shadows of some of the trainer’s more illustrious trotting stars like Lyell Creek and Take A Moment. “He won two Jewels. He was a bit underrated. He came along at the wrong time when there were horses like Stig and I Can Doosit. He won five Group One’s in twenty two days.” That winning streak included a Great Southern Star Heat, Great Southern Star Final, Trotting Grand Prix, The Knight Pistol and New Zealand Trotting Championship. “That’s unheard of. He still didn’t get trotter of the year which annoyed me a bit, but never mind.” Winning connections after Vulcan’s Dominion Handicap win      – Photo Race Images Another horse Butt had success with was American bred Grinfromeartoear stallion Mr Feelgood. “We bought him out of Kentucky. Basically Kevin Seymour wanted a horse for the Interdominions because he was sponsoring it. We sourced a horse through Nifty Norman who was a good friend. We paid $600,000 US but he won it back in his first season.” Mr Feelgood won thirty nine races, banking $3,336,157. He won the 2009 Interdominions at Albion Park beating Blacks A Fake by half a neck. Washington VC gelding Report For Duty was another horse Butt trained at the end of it’s racing career. He was developed into a cup horse by Patrick O’Reilly. “He was a little tradesman. He ran third in two Hunter Cups.” Tim took Mah Sish to Australia. He won seven races for Ladbrook trainer Dean Taylor before Butt took over the reins. “Dean developed him and he looked a good horse. Dean didn’t travel that much and we just thought the horse needed to be in those good races in Australia. He nearly won a million dollars. He ran second to Themightyquinn in the Interdominions and won the Hunter Cup.” Mah Sish was part owned by Greg and Leigh Ayres. Leigh is Derek Jones’ daughter and Tim’s aunt. The Mach Three gelding ended his career winning fifteen races and $955,165. The Ayres also had a share in a number of other Butt runners including Raglan, Report For Duty and Elusive Chick. But there was one budding grand circuit horse that got away; Soky’s Atom gelding Quick Step Bromac which Butt bought off David Butcher. “He was really promising. He was heading up to Auckland on the float with a real good trotter I had called Sonofadon. We bought him down and he won on Show Day and was just starting to hit his straps. I thought he was my next Cup horse. He hopped on the float and headed north but they rang us from Bulls and said the horse had died of travel sickness. They all had blood tests before they left and they were all perfect.” Butt began his training career in 1989 with his first winner being Dubois Moss at Nelson in January 1989. From 1995 he was consistently training over twenty winners a season and his first two good horses Swan Creek and Happy Asset were both winning their first races in that season. It didn’t take long for Butt to realise there were also good pickings for the right horses in Australia and in 1998 he took a small team across the ditch lead by trotter Novander Whiz. The Gee Whiz 11 square gaiter won his first start in Australia beating Aussie champion Noopy Kiosk in the McNamara Memorial Trotters Cup at Geelong. Lord Lester was also part of the team and he won a heat of the Victoria Derby before running third in the Derby won by Holmes DG. On that same trip Happy Asset ran fourth in The Hunter Cup. “That was a pretty good first introduction to Australian racing,” Butt said. From that point he began making regular trips to Australia chasing the big dollars. “We always like to chase races like the Hunter Cup and the Interdominions. They were special races back in those days. They had a lot of hype. The final of the Interdominion was worth a million dollars when Shakamaker won and Lyell Creek won the mile. Harness racing was pretty big then.” By 2018 Butt was away from home quite a bit and relocating to Australia became a reality. “I had to travel a lot when I took Field Marshal to Australia. The way things were transitioning in New Zealand was when you got a good horse you had to spend most of your time in Australia.” Another reason for Butt relocated to Australia was because he found it was easier to place horses around a fairer handicap system, and there were more weekly race meetings within close proximity to his home base. “When I came over, the only horse I took over to Australia that would have been competitive in New Zealand was Let It Ride. I think we won 60 odd races in that first year.” Butt has a 24 horse barn at Menangle which is says is the toughest place he knows to win a race. The Menangle Barn                                     – Photo Kate Butt “Tact Tama at his second start had to go 1-51 to win so that’s about the level you’re at.” He says locally there are around ten to fifteen races meetings where he can race a horse every week and be competitive. “Very seldom is there a horse in my barn that I can’t take somewhere and win. There’s tracks like Newcastle, Wagga and Dubbo.” Butt says training from a barn complex without grassy paddocks requires a different mindset. “I did a lot of homework before I came over. Guys like Chris Waller train from establishments like ours. Most of the successful galloping trainers train from complexes. It’s the same in Honk Kong and Japan.” He says without a doubt the profile he’d developed over the years of successfully winning big races in Australia, helped him procure facilities at Menangle. “I was lucky with my profile. Every time we had a hit and run mission we were generally pretty successful. We’ve won Group One races in just about every state. You have to apply to get in. I only got a few boxes originally but after being there for sixteen months they built a barn especially for me.” Butt has three full time staff with his wife Andrea doing all the organising. “She organises all the horses, the paddocks and washes down. We start at about six, or about five o’clock in the summer. We’re pretty much under control by one o’clock. The boys come back at three and the horses go back on the walker. There are no fences to mend. It a pretty easy lifestyle. We put the float on and we’re at the track in three minutes.” Andrea and Tim Butt with Flashing Reds New Zealand Cup   – Photo Race Images. Daughter Kate does all the media. She has a degree in Hotel and Business Management and has Fridays off to do any media work like Twitter and Facebook. “My generation doesn’t understand it so much but I can see the benefits of being in touch with all your owners. We get a lot of good reports back on how we contact them and the photos they get. We use My Stables which is an app that’s pretty easy to work.” Over the last while Butt says he’s attracted new owners to his barn. “There’s such a big pool of wealthy owners. In New Zealand you could probably count them on one hand.” Butt says he’s been lucky that some of his New Zealand owners have stayed with him. He cites Shona and Syd Brown. “Syd was good friends with my father. Syd’s a great stockman and his horses come up in immaculate condition. He’s got a great breed. He breeds to the best stallions and he looks after his stock so you’re halfway there.” “Syd still loves his New Zealand racing but sometimes you’ve got to see where the best opportunities lie.” Another New Zealand owner is Virginia Duncum who has a share in recent Ascot Park winner American Lightning. He says the style of racing in Australia is different to that in New Zealand and he’s had to change his training regime. “When I first arrived my horses were staying. At the start they were lost for speed but in the finish they were clawing the ground back again. I had to get them a bit sharper. The kiwis are great conditioners who take a long term view with horses. The Aussies are probably better week to week because they race so much. We’re better at setting a horse for a particular race. Here there’s a $30,000 race every week so you don’t hone your skills in the same way.” He says another thing that’s different is that many of the products he uses to treat his horses are available at the local Saddlery Store. “It keeps the cost of things down. For a lot of things in New Zealand you have to go through a vet. Things like iron injections are twenty bucks a shot here. In New Zealand they may be a hundred. I also think with processed feed the trainers in Australia have closed the gap.” His son Riley is part of the set up and is starting to create his own career in the industry as a driver. “It’s quite good. He’s had a bit of everything, he’s driven some roughies. He’s got good hands and he can nurse them around but he has to learn the tactics and the aggression and not to be too aggressive. Southland bred and developed Tact Tama’s been good for him because he gives you a bit of power and confidence.” Riley Butt and Tact Tama                            – Photo Kate Butt Butt says Southland has always been a great source of quality bloodstock and he’s continued to buy the right stock out of the province. “Southland’s such a great breeding ground going back to Son Of Afella and Washington VC. Horses down there are given time to develop. Back then a nice horse could run fourth or fifth. Nowdays a nice horse wins by five or six lengths and everyone wants it. There’s not the depth there was, but there’s still plenty of nice horses that come out of Southland.” He says he also has a good network of friends around the South Island that are always on the lookout for race horses. “People like Craig Thornley keep an eye out for me in Christchurch. There are people I prefer to buy off because I know they develop their horses.” He continues to keep a close eye on the New Zealand racing industry and says that during the Covid19 lockdown NZ had the opportunity to reshape it’s handicap system. “It’s great to get back racing but with Covid it gave New Zealand a chance to start on a blank page and get the handicap system right. There’s so much more they could do.” He also says New Zealand owners are treated poorly compared to their Australian counterparts. “The owner doesn’t get a fair crack. If a horse gets up in the grades too quickly they get exported to Australia. Ideally you want them racing in New Zealand with the owners having the time with them. It’s about making money. It’s trying to get back 80 cents in the dollar or close to it. “ He says there are more options when racing a horse in Australia. “Our (New Zealand) horse population is bigger that Queensland or Perth but they seem to race more often. In New Zealand we trial horses too much. Those horses should be racing. When you’re at the trials there’s no earning capacity.” One recent purchase from Southland is the Christian Cullen gelding Tact Tama which was bought out of the Winton stable of Trevor Proctor. “We took a bit of a punt of him. Brent Barclay liked him at the trials when he drove him. We like to buy horses before everyone else is trying to buy them and take a bit of a risk. He’s come up really well. He’s got a good attitude. He’s a lovely laid back horse.” He also recently purchased another Proctor trained pacer, Tact Tory which is unqualified. “He was a bit of a punt because he hadn’t done a lot. The same owner that bought Tact Tama bought this one. I liked his breeding. He’s a big sort of guy. He was actually in the yearling sales in Canterbury but was withdrawn because he had bone chips in his hocks which is not a problem.” He was also interested in buying Tact Fergie – another Proctor trained gelding. “They’re going to keep this one. I think I’ve given them a little too much money” (for Tact Tama –laughter). Another horse heading Butt’s way soon is the Kirk Larsen trained Forsure which is owned by Shona and Syd Brown of Mosgiel. “We had a stable down in Southland thirty odd years ago so we’ve always had a relationship with Kirk. I trained Honour Bromac to win a couple and I said to him that he should breed from her. He did and she left Howard Bromac.” Forsure’s full-brother My Field Marshal undoubtedly restarted Butt’s career and after showing sensational form at four in New Zealand he developed into a Grand Circuit horse in Australia. “He’s back in work. He probably put me back on the map after having a quiet time with good horses. This will probably be his last campaign. We’re looking at taking him back to Perth.” Butt is excited about a young French trotter Holzarte Vedaquais which has just arrived at the barn. “It’s been a bit of a challenge with Covid and the exchange rate. He got out of quarantine on Wednesday and they closed the Victoria border on Wednesday night but they let the horses through so we were bloody lucky.” Tim Butt and Holzarte Vedaquais                                – Photo Kate Butt The horse was purchased in a joint venture between Aldebaran Park principal Duncan McPherson, well known trotting owner Pat O’Driscoll from Haras des Trotteurs, Greg and Leigh Ayres, Fred Cruz and Sydneysider Bob Jones who bought half the horse. “Le Trot (French Trotting Organisation) took a group of us up there for ten days. They took us to all the studs and race meetings. I was the only one that bought a horse but I’m sure a lot more will be bought in the future.” Butt says the young trotter was up with the best two year olds in France. “You couldn’t get a better horse. I’ve bought French horses before and this one’s streaks ahead of them on credentials.” And down the track, all going well, Butt would like to bring him to New Zealand. “It’s a big investment. I want to bring him down to New Zealand if he’s good enough and race in races like the Dominion and the Rowe Cup.” Another recent purchase is Knockawarwon a full-brother to American star Shartin. “He’s just a three year old. Craig (Thornley) did the deal for me. I’ve got a few fingers in a few pies and I know what I want. I like to buy horses a bit above average. I don’t go for the middle of the road horses.” Although Butt doesn’t have a lot of trotters in the stable, one that’s making her mark is Dizzysjet (Quaker Jet filly) which finished second to Elite Stride in the NSW Trotters Derby. Tim acknowledges that part of his success on both sides of the Tasman is due to his brother Anthony’s driving skills. Anthony drove 535 of his 832 winners. “Yep Ants was a big part of the stable. He’s a big race driver. Cool, decisive, and he drives with the right amount of aggression.” Canterbury horseman David Earnshaw was also an integral part of Tim’s operation. He worked for Butt for over 20 years and drove 45 winners from the stable. “One Cup meeting he ran second in the Dominion with Roydon Flash and third in the Cup driving Tribute.” Prop Anderson also worked for Butt for over 15 years and travelled around the world with Lyell Creek. Anderson and Butt trained in partnership for four seasons from 2007 to 2011 and notched up 175 wins. Butt has had numerous success in the past, and it’s clear to see that there’s plenty for him and his family to be getting on with. Plenty of exciting young talent and by the law of averages another star is probably just round the corner. Not that he’s forgets his former champions like Lyell Creek. “Yep he’s still alive. Mum looks after him. He’s running around in the same paddock as Vulcan.” Some of the numbers: Won 90 Group races in New Zealand. 39 Group One races, 40 Group Two, 11 Group Three and 14 Listed races. Won 21 Group One races, 9 Group Two, 7 Group Three and 5 Listed races in Australia. Total 127 Group races in Australasia. Trained 4 Rowe Cup winners Lyell Creek (2000, 2001 and 2004) and Take A Moment (2003). Has also owned a Rowe Cup winner in Stig (2013). This season so far he’s trained 56 winners in Australia for stake earnings of $540,666 and currently sits in eighth position in the highly competitive NSW premiership. Current Australian Grand Circuit Trotting Master as the leading trainer of Grand Circuit trotters between 2000 and 2019. His leading trotters on the Grand Circuit were Lyell Creek in 2000 and 2001, Take A Moment in 2003 and 2004, Lyell Creek in 2005, Mountbatten in 2008 and Vulcan in 2013. Butt has won 8 Dominion Handicaps as a trainer. 1999 (Lyell Creek) 2000 (Lyell Creek) 2001 (Take A Moment) 2002 (Take A Moment – Dead heated with Martina H) 2003 (Take A Moment) 2004 (Lyell Creek) 2007 (Mountbatten) 2011 (Vulcan) NB: He also had a share in 2008 winner Stig. Won New Zealand Trotting Cup twice with Flashing Red Took out the Interdominion Trotting Championship three times with Take A Moment (2001 and 2003) and Lyell Creek (2000). Won Interdominion Pacers Championship with Mr Feelgood in 2009. Won Auckland Cup with Happy Asset (1999) and Flashing Red (2007). First Group win was with Lord Lester in the 1997 Group Two Members Golden Mile at Thames beating Holmes DG by a neck. First Group One win was with Lyell Creek in the 1999 Dominion Handicap at Addington. Best New Zealand season as a trainer was in 2005 when he trained 60 winners second only to Geoff Small who trained 82. In that season he trained horses like Foreal, Take A Moment, Tuherbs, Tribute, Lyell Creek and Mister DG. Trained 832 winners in New Zealand; 648 on his own account, 175 with Prop Anderson and 9 with Jonny Cox. Of the 832 winners Tim trained in New Zealand, 535 were driven by brother Anthony, 45 David Earnshaw, 28 Mark Jones, 23 Dexter Dunn, 23 Blair Orange, and 21 by Kim Butt. Trained three Hunter Cup winners: 2012 Choise Achiever, Mister DG 2004 and Mah Sish 2013. Miracle Mile winner: 2018 My Field Marshal. Winner of the Blacks A Fake: 2018 Let It Ride. NSW Breeders Four Year Old Challenge: Let It Ride: Millionaires while under Butt’s care: Lyell Creek 113-56-15-11 $2,961,137 Stunin Cullen 42-18-4-2 $1,493,716 My Field Marshal 75-29-18-7 $1,492.582 Take A Moment 67-39-9-3 $1,164,356 Flashing Red 16-6-3-2 $1,065,988.38 Vulcan 127-20-20-11 $1,025,892 Other big winners for Butt are (hopefully I’ve got them all!!): Foreal (18) Tribute (16) Happy Asset (14) Choise Achiever (13) Raglan (13) Pocket Me (13) Elusive Chick (13) The Flyin Doctor (12) Novander Whiz (11) Cam Before The Storm (11) Roydon Flash (11) Mister DG (11 and $704,233,.05) Let It Ride (9) Cullen’s Creek (9) Tuherbs (9) All Talk (9) Theaneson (9) Eastnor Lad (9) Hilarity Lobell (9) Mountbatten (8) Greenburn Creek (8) Ray (8) Mah Sish (8) Centreofattention (8) Novander Whiz (8) Swan Creek (8) Red Tip Governor (7) Another Moment (7) The Big Mach (7) Astral Traveller (7) Smart Seeker (7) Hostile Grins (7) Hanovander (6) The Sniper (6) Jungle Jane (6) Lord Lester (6) Genius (6) Lota Speed (6) Dudinka’s Cullen (6) Report For Duty (4 and $407,373.52) Mr Feelgood (4 and $896,487.00)     Bruce Stewart

For the second time in as many years West Melton driver John Morrison has won the New Zealand Junior Drivers Premiership. Going into today’s Southern Harness meeting at Ascot Park Morrison was on thirty three wins with Northern driver Dylan Ferguson. In the EH Ball ITM Mobile Pace driving Miss Impression he came with a late run up the passing lane to snap victory by a length and a quarter from Lite Percussion, which finished wide out. This year the junior drivers premiership has been very competitive with Ferguson, Ben Hope and Sheree Tomlinson all vying for the top slot with Morrison. “There’s a great bunch of young drivers out there now. They all do the work and are willing to travel. I’ve been lucky because I can sneak down here and I’ve usually had a few drives. If I didn’t have that I’d probably be struggling really,” he said. Morrison works for West Melton trainer Malcolm Shinn who trains Miss Impression and says the three year old filly is likely to return to the province in the new season for the Southland Oaks. Miss Impression after winning for John Morrison             -Photo Bruce Stewart He says he’s grateful to Shinn who helped start his career as a reinsman. “Back when I was a young fella I hadn’t had many drives. I’d probably only won five races and I was lucky (that) he put me on Seaswift Joy. She kicked my driving career off because she was a pretty good horse.” He says one of the highlights of the season was winning the Waimate Cup on Di Caprio. “I like driving on the grass. He’s probably the best horse I’ve got to drive at the moment. That win was probably the main highlight for the season.” Morrison has won four races on the Brian O’Meara trained pacer and says he has one more season driving as a junior. “I’m the old fella out there. I’ve got one more season so I’m on the way out (laughter).” Meanwhile See Ya Write capped off a great three year old season by winning the Yaldhurst Hotel Handicap Pace. See Ya Write                            -Photo Bruce Stewart The Sportswriter gelding owned by the Test Syndicate was superbly handled by the country’s leading reinsman Blair Orange who never left the inside running line. Orange saved ground all the way to the top of the straight before encouraging See Ya Write up the passing lane to beat Rocknroll King by a nose. The win was the horses fourth this season from just ten starts. He has won all of his three post Covid starts at Ascot Park.   Bruce Stewart

The Southland Trainers Premiership went right down to the wire today but Branxholme trainer Nathan Williamson with two winners fended off Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis to take out the season’s title by two wins. Williamson’s first winner was Southland’s rising trotting star Chinese Whisper who came from a long way back after pacemaker Davey Mac shot away to a big lead. “You don’t want to be too far back but I knew when I asked him he’d close the gap pretty good,” Williamson said after the four year old won by three and three quarter lengths. “Well probably give him another start in a few weeks’ time. I might ever take him away at his next start to give him a trip away.” The premiership was sealed later in the programme when pacing filly Flight Crew showed plenty of toughness to overcome a wide draw. The winning crew with sponsors Craig Heyrick                – Photo Bruce Stewart “She did plenty of work, came off the unruly and they went 43 (2-43.1). I managed to get a good run early and get into a reasonable spot without her getting too worked up. I was four wide with a lap to go and worked up to sit parked. I was quite impressed with the run.” The wins qualifies the Panspacificflight filly for the Southland Oaks in October. Flight Crew navigating her way to the finish                  – Photo  Bruce Stewart This was the Williamson fourth Trainers Premiership. He’d previously won it in 2013, 2015 and 2016. “Win as many as you can is always the goal. It’s great to do it again. I thought this year I’d have a good shot because we had a lot of nice horses then Covid mucked everything up. We managed to last which was great.” The win also sealed his twelfth Southland Drivers Championship with fifty wins, ten clear of Brent Barclay. The day was capped off for Williamson when he won the Southern Harness Website ‘Drive with Five’ betting competition. He didn’t have a win on the board and was last in the five driver competition. His last bet of $10 each way was on rank outsider Mr Olympus which won and paid $60-30 and $10-50 netting Williamson a cool $738.00   Bruce Stewart

Interim Harness Racing New Zealand CEO Phil Holden wears a number of hats and he happened to be in Southland last week when the Government announced it plans to invest more than $1.86 million over two years to deliver a pilot training programme for the shearing industry. Holden is CEO of New Zealand Shearing as well as interim CEO of Harness Racing New Zealand as it goes through its most challenging period in decades. “It is a challenging time right now but we’ll get through that,” Holden said. While visiting the province he also took the time to talk to the Southern Harness Board. In my interview with him he said “I think the Southern Harness model potentially could be an operating footprint across the country. There is certainly some sense in your model. It’s good to see, as I’m from Southland, that you’re leading the thinking there.” Both the Wyndham and Gore Harness Racing Clubs are facing challenges at the moment with Wyndham losing the right to race on its home track and Gore restricted to just one meeting on the Gore galloping track in December. Both clubs are unhappy with the decision. “I had a good conversation with the Presidents of both clubs and I thought that went really well. As I said to them and the board of Southern Harness, there needs to be a southern solution and that means we have to get in the sandpit together, hold hands and work through it. I’m very confident we’ll be able to do that.” Initially a number of clubs throughout the country were not allocated dates by the industry’s controlling body RITA and they had to submit plans for reinstatement. Holden says the Manawatu Trotting Club’s submission was one that stood out as being  unified with a community based approach. “Rather than throw their toys out of the cot and say ‘gosh what have you done to us’ they took a positive approach to their situation. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes but they’re acutely aware it’s up to them. Taking responsibility the way they have is great, but equally the way the clubs have collaborated has led to the good result. If you throw a Southern Harness model on top to that – that’s the future.” Holden says the Southern area, its new calendar and venues will be reviewed at the end of the year as will a number of other areas. “RITA have made it clear that the review is across all codes and needs to be completed by the end of the year.” Holden sees some major challenges ahead for the industry with the key one being getting the way the product looks and runs, right. “I think the biggest challenge we’ve got as an industry is getting our product delivery right. We’re in a period of transition and if we want to maintain our relevance and the premier position we aspire to we have to make sure our product is fit for purpose. It needs to generate the waging returns and we need to be racing at the appropriate venues. That means we have to face up to some difficult challenges in that space.” He said industry unity is the only way this will happen. “We need the industry to come together and have a shared sense of purpose, a clear vision of what the future looks like, which we don’t have right now. But I’m keen to lead, develop and put it in place.” Holden says the HRNZ can provide guidance but the industry as a group has to formulate its own strategy. “The role of Harness Racing New Zealand is to provide the framework to harness clubs. Because we don’t have clarity around that vision and what that looks like it makes it very difficult. It’s a matter of urgency that we start thinking about what that looks like.”   Bruce Stewart

There was a touch of arrogance in the win by Robyns Playboy at Ascot Park yesterday, when the gelding made a stunning return to racing, winning by five and a half lengths on a three degrees afternoon and running the 2200 metres in 2-41.9. “He’s been just working the house down at home. I was a bit worried that he may not have done enough work. We had him at the workouts last Friday and he ran home in 54.8 without the plug being pulled so we were pretty confident,” said Ross Wilson who trains the four year old in partnership with son Chris. Robyns Playboy was taken straight to the front by junior driver Kerryn Tomlinson and she let the gelding roll along. It was a change in future for the son of Shadow Play who had only won twice in thirteen starts in the first part of the season. “He had a weepy eye and he was only ever ninety percent right. He’d work okay at home and when he went to the races he’d lack that bit of kick. This time in, he’s just a different horse.” And Wilson says the New Zealand Cup is now on the radar. “It’s getting near the end of my old career. I’ve never had one in the Cup so hopefully this one’s the fella.” He’s hoping he doesn’t have to travel too much prior to the Cup and feels there’s a good pool of horses in Southland to generate races for the tighter assessed horse in the province. “There’s quite a few good class horses down here now with Blackies Alister Black) and Nathan Williamson’s horses so we have enough horses to have a race.  It’ll be interesting. We’ll aim to go to the Hannon and get a line on him.” Winning connections                                      – Photo Bruce Stewart The win went some way to compensating the late scratching of stablemate Robyns Shadow in an earlier race. “It wrecked my all ups. He lives out in the paddock and with the frosts he was a bit tender in the feet. He doesn’t like being boxed but he’ll have to be boxed for a while.” Meanwhile the Graeme Anderson trained American Lightning continued on his winning way by accounting for the R52-R56 horses. The two year old was driven like the best horse in the race by Matty Williamson and taken straight to the front. It’s a role that appears not to suit him as he once again knocked off at the finish and only won by three quarters of a length. The American Ideal colt has now won three of his four starts.   Bruce Stewart

The ‘Tact’ breed has been active in Southland for a long time and it looks like the next good horse from the harness racing breed developed by the late Derek Dynes has arrived. At Ascot Park yesterday, Tact Fergie  was taken straight to the top from Barrier Three by driver Brent Barclay and there he stayed, winning by a length from Tres Chic with plenty in hand . “I think a bit of him. We sold the brother (Tact Major) for good money but I always thought this horse had more potential. He always felt as though he had a lot of ability,” said trainer Trevor Proctor. Tact Fergie is owned by Proctor and partner Diane Dynes, and today’s win was special for the Dynes family. Proctor said all the horses are named after Derek’s grandchildren.” “We named him after Fergie who’s four tomorrow. He was up at Starship Hospital with his sister Charlotte who’s eight and undergoing fifteen months of treatment. The Auckland Blues were there, Beauden Barrett and a couple of others.  Fergie managed to get the camera off them. He didn’t know who the Blues were initially. He took about two hundred photos in a short space of time and he was walking around saying ‘I work for the Blues.” That is why,  offers from Sydney based trainer Tim Butt have been turned down to date. “I said to Tim that I was struggling to let him go because he was named after a family member. He does touch a knee and he’d be better off over there. The farrier here has finally got him right but on a big track like Menangle and with Tim training him I imagine he’d improve.” The horse has also received a strong endorsement from the normally conservative Brent Barclay. “Barclay doesn’t often say he likes horses but he said he liked this one. He should have said that about Tact Tama. I would have kept him round for a few races (laughter).” Diane’s sister Elaine daughter Hayley had breast cancer last year. “And now Hayley’s daughter Charlotte (Fergie’s sister) is in Starship. They set up a Give a Little page and it’s raised $100,000.  Hayley can’t work because she has to be in Auckland and she has two other little children, Fergie and Maggie,” said Diane. Tact Fergie is out of the New York Motoring mare Tact Hayley who’s proved to be a broodmare gem for the the Dynes family. She’s the dam of Tact Hayley Jane (10 wins), Tact Lizzie (10), Spectactular (8) and Tact Major (14). Meanwhile the long established Southland based syndicate The Southern Oddfellows Syndicate are looking for new members. The syndicate has a rising two year old by A Rocknroll Dance out of the unraced Washington VC mare Judes VC.  Judes VC is out of the nine win Soky’s Atom mare Highview Jude. The gelding, named VC Rock is in training with Ascot Park trainer Murray Brown. If you’re keen to join this well run syndicate contact Neil Popham of 027-229-5122.   Bruce Stewart

Winton reinsman Brent Barclay scored a double at Ascot Park today. The first came in the Tuapeka Lodge Mobile Pace when the well-bred Maximus Prost beat a handy maiden field. The American Ideal three year old qualified before lockdown before having an enforced spell. He had two workouts on his home course prior to his debut today, running second to the talented Tact Fergie before winning last Friday. “He went real good at the workouts. He’d been working well at home. Today he got a good draw and he didn’t have to do any work early. The race panned out well for him,” said trainer Lauren Pearson. Barclay settled Maximus Prost back early before following up Unsurpassable inside the last 500 metres. He then let him run down the outside of the track to win easily by a length and a half from a game pacemaker Lynryd Skynryn. And the plan now? “The idea was to qualify him and perhaps win a race but there’s been a few people looking at him to buy. If the money’s right I’m picking he could be gone.” Maximus Prost is out of the Christian Cullen mare Summer Ale. Her early foals Summertime Lizzie and Argyle Beach each won two races for Ascot Park trainer Wayne Adam before heading to Australia. Summertime Lizzie won a further ten races while Argyle Beach has won  a further eighteen. Trainer Lauren Pearson, Maximus Prost, Brent Barclay, Stewie Somerville and John Reid – Photo Bruce Stewart “Unfortunately Summer Ale died this year after foaling. They have this fella, a filly (Bettor’s Delight) and a weanling colt, (Captaintreacherous) and that’s it.” Pearson trained Summer Ale’s full brother Montecrengle to win his first two races. He went on to win a further twelve for a variety of other trainers. Barclay’s other win today came with the consistent Nota Bene Denario owned by the Symons. The Well Said gelding had run second seven times in his previous eleven starts and was rewarded with a win today. Trained by Brett Gray, Nota Bene Denario settled in the outside running line. At the 400 Barclay moved him out three wide and he came home nicely to beat Change Is Good by a length and a half. The gelding last won at Winton in April 2019.   Bruce Stewart

There was a lot to like about American Lightning’s win at Ascot Park today. The two year old colt not only beat older more seasoned rivals, but he had to be gutsy to withstand the serious challenge that was dished up to him. From gate three driver Matthew Williamson pushed the colt forward and he lead into the first bend but had to be slapped up early to keep his mind on the job. “He’s a pretty laid back horse who is better following other horses,” he said. From there he took control of the early part of the race. “Today was an average field and we had to give him a chance to lead and do the job. He’s better running off their backs.” With just over a lap to run Brent Barclay speared Gomeo Denario forward and American Lightning was put under pressure, but Williamson said it didn’t seem to bother him. “He’s never one to pull. He was still asleep then. It wasn’t really an attack that was worrying him.  I was happy for the other horse to sit there because it kept his mind on the job.” At the 350 Williamson had a look round and saw that the field was battling behind him. At the top of the straight American Lightning was let go and he ran down to the line to beat the late finishing Toby O’Gara by two and a half lengths. The winning time of 2-43.8 was impressive for this time of year. It was the American Ideal colt’s second win, both achieved at Ascot Park. His only other start was in the Kindergarten Stakes when he ran third – the race was won by First Class. “He’s got nice speed and stamina. He’s got the makings of a good horse but he just needs to learn the game a wee bit. He’s a colt still and it’s just whether Graeme thinks he needs to lose his privileges (to be gelded). It might wake him up because he’s just a wee bit smart about things at the moment. He does what he has to rather than what he’s told.” Meanwhile quality trotter Chinese Whisper finally did things right to win his third race in his short career so far. The Sundon four year old has been getting things wrong this season. After a wee bobble and a skip, trainer driver Nathan Williamson got the talented trotter away wide out. Once he found his rhythm he took the gelding to the lead and there he stayed. He trotted down to the line under a hold with his ear plugs still in place to beat Fanny Hill by four and three quarter lengths, running his last 800 metres in 57 seconds. The Mitchell Kerr trained A Delightful Act easily won her race. The Bettor’s Delight three year old filly beat Dream Of Glory by a length and a half. If she’s to run in the rescheduled Southland Oaks she’ll need to start once more in the south over the next two weeks in order to earn enough stake money to run in the Group Three final.   Bruce Stewart

Burnham trainer Mark Jones will make the most of the small window of opportunity to firm up his qualifiers for the Southland Oaks which has been reprogrammed for October. The Southland Oaks and Supremacy Committee announced last week that the qualifying period for both features has been extended until the end of July and that three meetings in Southland are now available for trainers to qualifying their three year olds. “I think it’s pretty good timing as its two weeks before Cup Week. It works out well for our ones because they’re high up in the grades and can come down to Southland and race their own sex rather than take on the good horses round Canterbury. So it’s a pretty good option,” Jones says. Both features will be run on Diamonds Day on Thursday 29th October at Ascot Park and will carry a stake of $30,000 and a Group Three listing. Three year old filly Lu Lu La Mans is one of the horse Jones is sending south. “She’s coming down as she needs another start and some more money to qualify.” Lu Lu Le Mans impressively won by three and three quarter lengths at the Northern Southland March meeting. Lu Lu Le Mans winning for Sam Ottley at Ascot Park                   – Photo Bruce Stewart He says there’s a chance quality filly Stylish Memphis will also venture south. “I’ll just see how she is. It’s touch and go whether she’ll be ready but there’s a possibility, put it that way.” In her only run in the south, Stylish Memphis won at Wyndham in November in the hands of Ricky May. Impressive Addington winner Plutonium Lady also trained by Jones is also qualified (4th). Jones already has two horses at this stage qualified for the Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes: Burnham Boy (9th ) and Willison (12th). Willison                                                            – Photo Bruce Stewart “They probably won’t come down but it depends on what races are programmed for Addington because they’re in the same grade. They’re more likely to come down in August as four year olds and chase a penalty free race.”   Bruce Stewart

Art Major gelding Major Punter lived up to his breeding when he won on debut at Ascot Park yesterday, and he had to be tough to do it. The two year old, racing against older opposition settled in the one one early and stayed in the outside running line for most of the trip. At the 700 driver Blair Orange pulled Major Punter out and he started to progress three wide. At the 500 metres he was outside the leader Unsurpassable. Orange nursed him through the next 200 metres and then pulled the plug halfway down the straight. The horse started to get on one rein but had enough ability to beat Ride In A Concorde by a length. “He did lay in quite bad coming up the straight. I think if he’d run true he would have won a lot easier. We’ve still got a bit to work on but that’s why he’s here,” said Gore trainer Tony Stratford. Major Punter is owned by Westward Beach trainer Graeme Anderson in partnership with Brian Sceat and has been at Stratford’s stable for six weeks. He and Anderson regularly swap horses. “He just came down to learn to work round a track rather than run up and down on the beach. He’s a lovely horse. One of the better young ones we’ve had. He’s got a great attitude. Blair likes him.” Major Punter is out of the one win McArdle mare Millwood Hope whose dam Millwood Minisota left class pace Ohoka Punter the winner of sixteen races and $494,097. “Graeme always liked him and we do too, so onwards and upwards. We’ll probably look at a Sires Stakes heat when they kick off in October. He may come back here in three weeks.”   Bruce Stewart

Impressive Invercargill winner Forsure looks set to head to Australia where he’ll be trained by Tim Butt. The Art Major three year who’s out of eighteen win Washington VC mare Foreal is owned by Shona and Syd Brown of Mosgiel and is trained by Branxholme horseman Kirk Larsen. “He’s always had a bit of ability but we’ve looked after him and he’s started to click now,” Larsen said after Forsure ran home strongly down the middle of the track to beat favourite Under Wraps by a neck. “Beckie (Allan Beck driving Tartan Trilogy) gave me a cart into the race and that was the makings of the win for me.” The Browns race Forsure’s full brother My Field Marshal out of Butt’s stable. My Field Marshal has won twenty nine races and banked nearly 1.5 million dollars in stakes. Larsen says although he’s sad to see Forsure leaving the stable the move makes sense. “He’s paid up for a series in Australia. He’s going to Tim’s at Menagle and the horse will love the fast mile racing. Syd’s got plenty of young ones at home by Betting Line and Captaintreachous so there’s plenty coming on.”   Bruce Stewart

The winning streak of young trotter Ultimate Stride continued at Ascot Park yesterday. The quality three year old was having only his second start back after injury forced him to miss most of his three year old season. Driver Matthew Williamson took the Love You colt back early before getting into the one one. With 600 metres to run he changed up a few gears, hooked out and speared Ultimate Stride to the top, easily opening a massive gap in the field. He went down to the line to win by seven lengths. “He got a perfect trip, so everything fell into place. He’s got great manners and he’s exciting,” said trainer Phil Williamson. The time for the 2700 metre stand of 3-27.4 established a new track and Southland record, erasing The Fiery Ginga 2010 record of 3-30.6. The time was just 0.2 seconds outside the New Zealand record of 3-27.2 held by Heavyweight Hero. So how does Williamson rate him? “Nicest colt probably I’ve had but in saying that we did have Oscar Bonavena. He’s (Ultimate Stride) probably the best I’ve gone on with because we didn’t have Oscar for very long. There’s a bit of class there alright.” Williamson says the short term plans are fairly simple. “Keep the hell away from Brad (Son Brad Williamsons trotter Cracker Hill). We’re just on our own paths at the moment. It’ll be an exciting clash. It’s hard to believe you can have two such nice horses on the same property. I’m not keen on having a dual with him and he’s not that keen on having one with me either. If its $100,000 race it’ll be gloves off and see how it goes. At this stage we’re not going head to head for 10k.” The two targets for both trotters will be the $85,000 PGG Wrightson Final at Alexandra Park on October 9th and the Haras des Trottuers Sires Stakes Championship at Addington on October 16th. Ultimate Stride is out of the millionaire trotting mare One Over Kenny which won thirty two races. Bred by Lex and Heather Williams, One Over Kenny has been an outstanding broodmare. All of her seven foals of racing age have qualified and six have collectively won forty seven races. Her seventh foal One Over All is qualified, but unraced. One Over Kenny’s best foal One Over Da Moon won twenty races.   Bruce Stewart

The Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained Love On The Rocks continued his good form when he won again at the Southern Harness meeting at Ascot Park yesterday. The three year old settled back early, where he stayed until the 600 when driver Kirstin Barclay followed Nota Bene Denario up three wide. Reined up, Love On The Rocks finished strongly down the middle of the track to beat Nota Bene Denario by a length and a quarter. “He’s got a really good turn of foot but he’s a funny wee horse. You don’t know how well he’s winning because you’ve got to tell him to go. He’s not one that hooks out and just goes. You have to drive him a bit but he seems to get to the line well within himself,” Barclay said. It was the Terror To Love gelding’s third win in row, having only qualified in December. “He’s coming through his races really well. We have no real plans. He pulled up so well we might give him one more race and then give him a bit of a break. It’s hard to turn them out when they’re going so well.” Love On The Rocks is one of a small handful of horses trained at the Barclay/Ellis stable at Tisbury. Most of their horses are trained at Oreti Beach. “He didn’t go that well out there. He’s just a bit lazy. For some reason he just didn’t fire at the beach but not all horses do.” Barclay and Ellis with 26 winners, sit one win behind Nathan Williamson in the race to win the Southland Trainers Premiership.   Bruce Stewart

Two year old trotter Love N The Port created a good impression when he beat older horses on debut at Ascot Park yesterday. The Love You gelding driven by Matthew Williamson stepped nicely and trotted wide early before settling three back on the outside with stable mate Springbank Mason taking up the role of pacemaker. With 600 metres to run Williamson pulled the two year old out and moved him up to challenge Springbank Mason. The two went head to head until 50 metres from the finish line when Love N The Port proved too strong, going away to win by a length and a half. “He’s shown a bit at home and has been pretty impressive at the trials,” said trainer Phil Williamson who was confident of a strong showing. The time of 2-55.1 bettered the track and Southland record of 2-58.1 held by Majestic Connies. The New Zealand record of 2-52.7 is held by Russell Galleon. “He’ll go out now for a spell and come back and race at Christmas time. We’ll look at perhaps running in the Derby if all goes well. He’s got good stamina so there’s a chance he’ll be there if he’s that good a horse. We’re not getting too carried away, we want to see more but he is a quality horse.” Love N The Port is owned by Christchurch Architect Keith Ussher and wife Sylvia White who works at ARA (Christchurch Polytechnic) as an accountant. Keith says they’ve owned horses for over twenty years. “We haven’t had one as good as this one. He looks pretty promising but he’s still got to do it,” he said. Previous winners for the couple include Clovelly Beach (4) and Ace Of Hearts (3) and they currently race Arocknatthepark and The Flying Fijian from Mitchell Kerr’s stable. Keith doesn’t have any family connection with harness racing but Sylvia’s father Tom Roberts bred and raced horses including Lumumba (Light Brigade) which won five races for Broadfield trainer Jim Winter in the mid 1960s. Love N The Port is out of the four win Sundon mare Ngaire Margaret which won once for Brent Weaver and three times for Andrew Faulks. “She was a beautiful trotter but she had so many issues. She broke her leg early on. We ended up sending her south for beach training with Andrew.  We soon learned not to go down (to Forbury Park) – every time we went down she stuffed it up and when we didn’t go she won.” Usher says the journey with Love N The Port hasn’t always been plain sailing. “When we sent him down he was a colt and a bit of a handful. I think they almost considered sending him back at one stage. He was a bit of trouble but no worries now.” This is the first horse the couple have had with Williamson. “We can’t speak highly enough of him (Williamson). When this fella was young we could see he was a little beauty so we decided to send him to the best. The main person behind sending him south was Sylvia’s son Adam (well-known Canterbury farrier Adam White). Phil’s had him down there for about twelve months and he’s said all along that he’d never be a two year old because he was too big. He’s improved so much lately Phil thought he’d give him one race and then tip him out.” The win continued Williamson’s excellent form with trotters in the south. He’s won eight of the eighteen trotting races carded at Ascot Park post Covid19 and he looks set to once again achieve being New Zealands leading trainer of trotters by the end of the current season. He currently sits on thirty three wins, ten clear of Robert Dunn. Both his winners yesterday were by star trotting stallion Love You and Williamson has another promising type in Leaf Stride qualified and ready to go in the new season. “I backed off him because he’s a great big horse. He’s got good ability and is quite an exciting horse. He’s been a work in progress because there have been lot of issues through the early part of his career. We had a few concerns around his manners early on but we’ve worked hard on that with him.” Leaf Stride is out of a daughter of Merinai – Sun Mist, and Williamson says he’s looking at lining the horse up in September.   Bruce Stewart

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